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Full text of "The Cambridge Natural History"

436                              BRITISH ARCTOIDEA

many species known popularly as Weasels, Ermines, Stoats, Eerrets,
Polecats, Minks, and Vison. Not only is the genus common to
both Old and ]N"ew Worlds, but in a few cases the species (e.g.
P. erminea) range from Asia to America. The molar formula is

FIG. 221.—Polecat.     Mustelaputorius..   x $.
Pm -| M -J-. The form of the body is an exaggerated one, the
length of the trunk to the limbs being very great. The feet
are more or less hairy beneath, and the animals are digitigrade.
The nose is grooved. The dorsal vertebrae vary from thirteen
to sixteen.
There are four British representatives of this genus :—
The Polecat, P. foetidus, is a dark brown-coloured animal. Its
total length is about 2 feet, of which the tail occupies some 7
inches. It is a species banned by the gamekeeper, and hence is
approaching extinction in this country. It is excessively blood-
thirsty, as are apparently all the members of this genus, and kills
out of mere wantonness. The Ferret is simply a domesticated
variety of the Polecat.
The Stoat or Ermine, P. erminea, is reddish brown above,
white beneath. In winter, in certain localities, it becomes white
with the exception of the black tip of the tail. This colour-
change bears some relation to the degree of latitude. It is
^universal in the north of Scotland, rare in the south of England.
''Aig'jd the case with some other animals that generally change